On this episode of Broad & High, an artist profile: Dennis DeVendra, a blind woodturner. Also a look at Dangerdust, the anonymous chalk artist duo from Columbus College of Arts and Design, Helping Hands Center an arts & autism based in Clintonville, Petali Teas and D’Art the Gallery Kitty at Dublin Arts Council.
Twin Cleared of Murdering Brother Not Angry; Seeks Police Apology
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A Columbus man cleared in the slaying of his identical twin says he forgives police and prosecutors who investigated and prosecuted him. Derris Lewis and his Mother talked to reporters Friday about the family’s ordeal over 18 months.
Derris Lewis sits calmly by his mother in a small conference room on East Livingston Avenue. He’s less than a mile down the road to Franklin County’s main jail where he spent the last year-and-a-half accused of murdering his twin brother, Dennis. Today he’s a free man.
Lewis and his mother, April Lewis, wear T-shirts with Dennis’s picture on the front. Above the photograph is the phrase “It Is What It Is”. They say that was Dennis’s motto: to let things be.
As media fills the room, mother and son share a tender moment.
“What can we do without each other? Nothin’”
After Lewis’s trial ended in a mistrial in March, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien called for further testing of their only piece of evidence to link Lewis to his twin’s murder – a quote unquote “bloody palm print”. Contradictory testimonies during the trial from two expert fingerprint witnesses prompted the additional testing. One expert said Lewis’s print was in Dennis’s blood. The other said the print was above the blood. Tests yesterday concluded the print was not in blood. Lewis’s release from the jail was expedited.
One might think the 19-year-old would be angry, but he says he’s not.
“No. No. I’m not. I gave it to God,” Lewis said.
But he said he would like something from the Columbus Police. He’d like them to say they’re sorry. “I would like a public apology as far as what they put me through and me and my family period,” he said.
So why was the testing – that took one day – not done any sooner? Lewis’s attorney, Adam Nemann, agreed it should have been done earlier, but he explained why it was not.
“Fingerprint evidence is fallible. And so for us to concede it was his print would be saying a lot for a defense attorney. We wanted to challenge the evidence at trial just like in any other case. We did that. And in fact in the trial we conceded it was his print for the most part in our argument. Throughout the trial we never disputed the fact that it was his print as much as we disputed it was not his print in blood,” Nemann said.
While in jail Lewis said he read the Bible a lot. He said prayer got him through the nights. Lewis called his family very spiritual. When asked if he thought the mistrial – which in the end prompted his release – was a divine blessing he said yes.
“Oh, yes. That has been a blessing. I mean, it could’ve went the whole opposite. You know, it could’ve went a 360. But it didn’t. That was a true blessing. And I believe that after that that’s when everything was coming into place for this day. I’m sitting in front of you today. So yeah,” Lewis said.
Nemann said after the trial a juror told him had deliberations continued they likely would have delivered a not guilty verdict. Nemann said the juror said at the time the trial was declared a mistrial nine jurors wanted to acquit Lewis. Three others were on the fence.
Lewis indicated he may want to pursue a civil suit for his wrongful incarceration. “I lost my freedom and my education. And those are the two most important things that I have as a citizen of these United States. But, again, that’s not all, I would like a personal apology, but we will go further, you know,” he said.
Nemann said he and Lewis have not had time to discuss a civil suit but…
“I would not rule it out though,” Nemann said.
Lewis, who was an honors student, missed his senior year of high school. He said the good news is his college scholarships were reinstated.
“I’m still planning on being a buckeye,” he said.
But Lewis is not forgetting about Dennis’s murder, even though it’s considered a cold case. Lewis said he will not rest until it’s solved.
“I will find out who did this. You know, if it takes me way down the years. I will. I will find out,” Lewis said.
Dennis Lewis was bludgeoned and shot to death during a robbery at their mother’s Linden home in January last year. He was 17-years-old.